Wednesday, November 4, 2015

So you think there are just small bonefish on Christmas Island?

Guy Gardiner always gives us a great report on his trips with his fellow New Zealanders to Christmas Island. (2014 report hereGuy is an old friend having traveled twice to the Seychelles with me. Guy has gone to Christmas Island with us quite a few times now and here is his report from his most recent visit:

Hi Scott.

Our party of 8 had another stellar fishing experience at CIO in the week straddling September/October where we fished the new moon tides when we arrived and the neaps at the end. Half our number had very limited experience at sight flyfishing so it was a different group to what I have hosted in the past. My son, Leo, in particular had not done much fishing at all and could be called a novice yet he caught 20 bonefish, a wahoo, yellowfin tuna and a sailfish offshore in addition to numerous hookups. He had only one blank day out of the 8 we fished. It is a great place for a flyfishing beginner. We actually struck king spring tides which meant the fish were bigger but the times and places they were actively feeding were more limited than usual until later in the week when they really came on in numbers I haven’t experienced since 1995. You really can choose whether you go for numbers or size or as we did go for a compromise. 


Dan, my brother in law, with a trophy Trigger fish caught at Korean Wreck. 

The lodge continues to offer the wonderful ambience and tempo that it always has and the guiding service maintains the same quality levels I have experienced since 2010 when I came with my father. One sad note is that the owner, proprietor and former mayor of the island Jim Tekiti has died and the operation continues under the auspices of his wife Anita and Biita still runs the guiding service. The lodge side of things is managed by Kata who previous clients might remember as the head chef. 

The weather was more patchy and our day planned for Korean Wreck was a failure due to the southerly and our back up option also fell over due to the track to Submarine Flat on the south side of the island being flooded out. Also Y site is no longer accessible by truck due to saltwater creek cuts through some off the tracks which is no real problem as more is boat accessible now but it did limit our Korean Wreck day. I am not sure whether it is due to a run of high tides or rising sea levels but an interesting development. 

That is one big bonefish!

Guy's son Leo and his big bone

Two personal highlights for me were our off shore day where we hooked up 13 wahoo/tuna/barracuda and boated 5 wahoo, 1 yellowfin tuna and a cuda as well as hooking 2 sailfish and Leo landed one which we managed to resuscitate and release. I fought one on fly tackle for 25 minutes before losng it. The best day offshore I have experienced in 20 years there. The other was my biggest ever bonefish by far hooked on Paris on a worm fly. I scaled the measurements in the photo and it comes in at 72cm as held and probably weighed 15-15.5 lbs. A lifetime highlight. [I'll say! Congratulations Guy, that is a truly tremendous bonefish! Ed.]

All the best,

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Water Cay Lodge Trip Report: 10/17-24/15 PART TWO

My memory of the next four days is now a blur of stalking on the endless flats that surround Water Cay. We fished mangrove creeks carpeted in dark turtlegrass and sandy undulating shore flats. We fished lovely white sand bays and seeming endless Casaurina lined beaches. We covered many square miles and rarely saw another boat.

Mike Schwartz releasing a hefty specimen!

Whether with Ezra, Greg or our leader Sidney, we were always in promising areas and always learning from these amazingly accomplished guides. If we listened to their well thought-out instructions and placed their concepts into action, we were usually rewarded with fish. I’ve often said, fish with the guides at Water Cay and you will come away a much better angler... no matter how good you are. It amazes me that after after 40 years of bonefishing, I’ve still learn so much from Ezra, Greg and Sid. Thanks guys!

Our tides got better and better as the week wore on. We started each day on a full or just turned high. As the week wore on the tides became fully neaped. The sliver of a moon on Day One waxed to be half full by the time we reluctantly departed. We had picked this week to get these tides and although the winds were constant, everything became quite manageable under the almost perfectly blue skies that emerged on our last four days. We saw and had shots at lots of fish and lots of big fish. The bones we saw were mostly singles and doubles at first, then as the week wore on, we saw more small schools ranging from 4-6 fish. The average fish we caught was 3-4 lbs., but we saw many and caught a few much bigger fish.

We found bones coming on fast through cuts or sneaking up behind us catching us off guard. We saw fish hundreds of feet ahead and missed fish that were only yards away. We saw bones in inches of water tailing in impossibly shallow areas that saw our flies land on dry hummocks having been carried a bit off target by the wind. But best of all, we often saw large singles and doubles cruising along the mangrove edges or weaving in and out of the bushes. This is as good as it gets with bonefishing. In these situations, you might have to wait for the fish to reemerge from the back of a bush to give you a small casting lane between two bushes. Your cast must then be precise and quiet which is very difficult to accomplish given our windy conditions. But if you made a good cast, we saw fish race to our fly. These fish often tailed to eat our flies while our hearts raced in anticipation. This is followed by either elation or dissapointment depending on if you “DID IT RIGHT!’. We screwed up in a hundred different ways and yet through it all had great victories.

We rarely searched long for a shot and even managed to put a fair number in the boat. It was fun... a hell of a lot of fun! The rest of the week buzzed by and before we knew it, it was time to go. Another week would have been great. The routine we adopted of up at dawn, in the boats after breakfast, fish hard all day, enjoy each other’s company at night followed by a good night’s sleep only to get up and do it all again, is a rejuvenating experience.

John and Anna Riggs celebrate their anniversary on Friday. Their guide Ezra Thomas details the number of people involved.
My many thanks to John and Anna Riggs, Scott Sawtelle, Mike Schwartz and Steve Peskoe for a great time. And to our guides Sidney, Ezra and Greg... you guys are the best. And a special thanks to Kay, our cook and hostess, we look forward to our next visit!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Water Cay Lodge Trip Report: 10/17-24/15 PART ONE

All of the members of this year’s trip to Water Cay Lodge had fished many times together on many. But somehow we had never fished together in this exact configuration. Somehow, my old friend Mike Schwartz had never met John and Anna Riggs, but he knew both Steve Peskoe and Scott Sawtelle from many trips including the Seychelles, the Yucatan, Los Roques and the Bahamas. In other words, we have all traveled together for many many years and even if some of us hadn’t met others, we knew their names. Now, we were finally on the same trip which was a repeat of last October’s sensational Water Cay trip. On Sunday morning, after a very enjoyable evening that included cocktails and a tasty home-cooked meal by our hostess Kay Cox, we were on the dock rigged and ready to fish!

But as dawn threw the first light of the day on the dock at Water Cay Lodge, we were certainly not enjoying the look of our first day’s weather. Dirty dark clouds, propelled by a constant 30 mph wind, scudded under a hazy high sky. White caps raced across the bay tossing white foam onto a messy, marl-stirred shore. It didn’t look good.

To our credit, we all managed to put a good number of hefty bones in the boat, but it was a tough day. While the constant haze made spotting fish tough, the dirty storm clouds made it even more difficult. When we did see fish, they were often too close to the boat to get a proper shot. When you added the strong breeze to this mix, your casting window was reduced to only a few downwind or at best, cross wind angles. To top it all off, the winds held the high tide so the water never really drained out all day. Often when it’s breezy and cloudy you can find tailing fish, but with the wind holding in the tide, tails were out of the question. Low viz, steady winds, high water.. that’s a bad combination. But as I said, somehow we all managed to put quite a few fish in the boat.

If Day One was tough, Day Two was simply awful. “The worst day in two years” Ezra Thomas would later remark. Ezra is one of three superb guides, including brother Sidney Thomas and Greg Rolle, who make up the guide staff at Water Cay. On this awful day, the winds increased to a steady 35 mph with frequent gusts over 40 mph. In addition to the driving winds, we had almost no sun making it hell to pay for these hardworking guides. Even though each of these guides is very skilled at boathandling and are some of the quietest polers I have ever seen (but not heard), they had virtually no chance of slowing down their Beavertail skiff’s rapid and relentless trip downwind.

So we raced over the flats hoping to get at least one good shot. But it was not to be. The only fish we managed to find were under the boat or fleeing from it before we could awkwardly toss, with a lurch and a prayer, a cast downwind. We struggled to keep our caterwauling lines in the boat let alone in any sort of casting order. Our fly lines spun into messy bundles or slid under bow of the the boat. We diligently hauled them back only to repeat this inevitable messiness again seconds later. Even facing downwind, our eyes teared and our cheeks burned. After four futile hours, each boat limped back to the lodge in the choppy seas. We had given it a valiant effort, but the conditions were simply impossible. While the anglers were forced to admit defeat, the guides must have been exhausted having worked so hard to try and control over a 1000 pounds of boat, motor and humans in this near gale. While the guides secured the skiffs in the lee of the cay, we turned our backs to the ocean, marched up the dock and decided to lick our wounds over a few cold Kaliks and a dinner of fresh snapper.

I thought that with Day One and now Day Two, we had paid our dues. I mentioned this to the fish gods and politely asked for some sun. I thought we could contend with the wind, if we could just get a bit of sun to see the fish. It didn’t need to be perfect, we just needed some viz. We needed the old fishing adage to hold true: “you do a week on a bonefishing trip to get two good days, two mediocre days and two bad days”. The fish gods apparently were listening because that’s exactly what we got to finish out our week: two great days and two better than OK days.

Next Part Two!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Water Cay Lodge Trip Concluded Last Saturday

Just returned Saturday from our trip to Water Cay Lodge on Grand Bahama Island. Great trip and a wonderful group... we were all sorry to leave. Trip report and photos to follow soon.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Crooked and Acklins Island Images

Here are a few images from Crooked Island. many of the residents have been evacuated by the government and now the job of rebuilding begins. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the Crooked Islanders.

For those of you wondering about Acklins Island and Grey Point Bonefish Inn, I just got this report from Kendall Williamson:

"My brother travel to Acklins yesterday (Tuesday) and reported the lodge, club house (dining room), boats received no damage as a result of hurricane Joaquin.
I'm travelling to Acklins on Saturday and upon my return will e-mail photos to confirm earlier statement about lodge. Several low lying settlement received severe storm damage from storm surge."

(Lovely Bay was especially hard hit! ed.).

Cell phone tower

Crooked Island Lodge

Supplies and help on Acklins Island